Married... with Articles

America remains married to the Bundys

By Julia Shih Daily Arts Writer March 25th 1997 LOS ANGELES - This is the man who we've invited into our homes for 11 years. The same man who scored four touchdowns in one game at Polk High, whose eyes light up whenever the word "hooters" is mentioned, and who walks through his front door every day ranting the same catch words, "You'll never believe what happened at work today. A fat lady comes in ... ." This is Al Bundy, the All-American working class hero. FEATURE Married With Children FOX New episodes Mon. at 9 p.m. Yet this man sitting in the lavishly decorated dressing room, surrounded by state-of-the-art exercise machines, looks more like a kind, fatherly retired football player than a man who has been slaving under the sweaty feet of obese women and the cruel bonds of marriage. "You know, I don't even think about it anymore," Ed O'Neill, the man behind the Bundy, said in an interview with The Michigan Daily. "I've been playing (Al) now for 11 years. And the only time I ever do it is here when I go out there (on stage) and start it. I never think about it otherwise, and I don't think I ever do it at home." Other than once possessing an incredible talent at football, Ed O'Neill is nothing like his character on FOX's sitcom, "Married With Children." Growing up in Youngstown, Ohio, he played football at Ohio University and Youngstown University before being drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1969. But as fate would have it, he was later cut from the team. He was luckily able to avoid a stagnant career as a bitter, burnt-out shoe salesman by falling back onto his theatrical background (in college he majored in theater) to open up the road to success. Arriving in New York at an age when most actors are past their prime, O'Neill launched his career with roles in the Broadway production of "Knockout," and off-Broadway and regional productions of "The Front Page," "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "Of Mice and Men." But the cost of stardom was a great deal of hard work, brutal struggle and frustration. "I think if I had gotten to New York in my early 20s instead of my early 30s, I would have been further along." O'Neill contemplated. "No one knows you. I was a busboy, so I had to really work to get going. "I did a lot of acting in my early 20s in Ohio. I learned and studied hard, sort of self-educated myself in the theater. So I had a lot of theater experience and I think that was good for me because it gives you a certain confidence that you have a technique that you can fall back on." After being cast to play the head of probably the most dysfunctional family in the country, it never occurred to O'Neill that the show would go on to become the longest-running sitcom currently on television. Filled with crude humor, puns on sexual deviancy and characters who constantly take cheap verbal shots at one another, "Married" emerged as the surprise hit of the '80s, with its appeal carrying it well into the next decade. When asked why he believes "Married" has lasted so long, O'Neill paused for a moment, deep in thought, before finally stating, "I don't know. Some people find it funny, I guess." For a show that has lasted for so long, it is probably safe to say that quite a few people find it funny. "The show started as a little more realistic," O'Neill continued. "Then pretty quick, it got cartoonistic. The characters never change, which is why I think it's funny. And that kind of thing is what we really wanted. We wanted the characters to remain the same and just put them in different circumstances and situations. So our challenge is just to create different situations, which is harder." On this particular day, the cast and crew are filming an episode titled "The Chicago Shoe Exchange," which has Al and his co-worker Griff exchanging shoes for other goods in the mall. Meanwhile, Al's daughter Kelly (Christina Applegate) practices her abilities as a masseuse on her brother Bud (David Faustino), with outrageous and agonizing results. Other members of the talented cast include Katey Sagal, Al's bon bon-eating anti-housewife; Amanda Bearse and Ted McGinley, who play next-door neighbors Marcy and Jefferson D'Arcy; and Lucky, the Bundy's cocker spaniel. "That's the fun of the business," O'Neill said. "I think it's the excitement of working with people that you admire and trying to get something going in terms of good scenes. And I like the team effort of trying to get the scene working. Acting isn't really something you can do by yourself. I mean, there are one-person shows, but they're not as appealing to me as an ensemble thing." But with 11 years of coming up with different scenarios and episode plot premises, the well of creativity appears to be, understandably, running dry for "Married With Children." Sad but true, even the best things in life must eventually come to an end. "I think this could be our last year," O'Neill said. "But realistically, if you were betting, it would probably be a good bet that we go one more year. But we don't know that yet." As for his plans after the show, O'Neill stated, "Well, I never had any before, and I don't know why I'd have any after. Whatever happens, I'll probably try to dig up a couple of interesting parts in movies." O'Neill is definitely no stranger to film, as he has proven perfectly capable of handling the transition from television to the big screen. He has worked in high-grossing movies such as "Blue Chips" and "Wayne's World II," as well as starring in the films "Dutch" and "Little Giants." Perhaps the end of the "Married With Children" era will allow O'Neill to become the next Tom Hanks, who also made a successful jump from a television sit-com to become the reigning king of the movie industry. As for "Married With Children," this may be the last season for fans to enjoy the chaos that ensues in the Bundy household. For a show that a whole generation grew up watching, we're all going to miss it when it's gone. So now would be a good time to start tuning in - before it's too late.
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